“Our City, Our Collection: Building the Museum’s Lasting Collection” is more than a chance to see the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s most famous exhibits. The exhibit, which tells the story of the museum’s history as a series of gifts, bequests and acquisitions, also gives visitors a chance to see pieces that aren’t displayed as often.
“When I was first conceptualizing the exhibition, part of what I had in mind was getting out works of art that are important in our collection we don’t normally get out,” says Michael Anderson, curator for the exhibition.
Those pieces range from a portfolio of pop artists Anderson says is difficult to display because of how the museum’s collection is laid out to a small collection of Native American art, including work by Acee Blue Eagle. Anderson says the museum does not collect Native American art because the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is also in Oklahoma City, but the OKCMOA has acquired some pieces over time.
One of the pieces, a sculpture by Philip Pavia, has never been displayed in the museum before, and Anderson says even he was surprised at the presence the piece has in the museum.
“Seeing it in person, it’s a really striking piece,” he says. “It’s a modernist sculpture, and it’s something I didn’t even really know we had, let alone that it would be as striking in the exhibition as it is.”
Anderson says 90 pieces in the exhibition also includes the OKCMOA’s most popular works of art people normally associate with the museum, including a portrait of George Washington by Charles Wilson Peale.
The combination of the well-known art with the less-exhibited pieces, along with the theme of the exhibition, helps visitors see the art in a new light, Anderson says.
“The exhibition reveals the personalities of the collectors and the aesthetics of the people who are in the collection,” he says. “It really puts them in a different context, and I think that’s one of the exciting things about the collection.”
Although the exhibition features a fair number of pieces of art for the size of the space, the open-floor plan allows for people to see contrasts between the different art styles being collected at the same time. Anderson says that allows visitors to get a perspective on “different attitudes toward art – what art was, what art could be” at the time the collections were acquired.
“Really, this is telling the history of our museum through the major gifts and big collectors that helped build it,” Anderson says.
The exhibition starts with the Works Projects Administration’s donation of 28 works of art to Oklahoma City in 1942, three years before the museum transitioned from a federally-funded gallery to a private institution in 1945. Since then, other notable acquisitions have included the purchase of 158 works of art when the Washington Gallery of Modern art in Washington, D.C. closed in 1968 and the purchase of “Chihuly: An Inaugural exhibition,” a collection of Chihuly glass that was first presented as a temporary exhibit when the museum opened its new building in downtown Oklahoma City in 2002.
The exhibition runs through Aug. 28.
“Our City, Our Collection” at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive, Oklahoma City
10 a.m. to 5 p.m, Tuesday-Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; through Aug. 28